by Jay Lake
Facing off in the raw, blustery January wind, I grabbed Crater's jacket, one hand on each side of the zipper. He wore the jacket open, like he always did, pushing his jiggling gut out toward the world through some cheap t-shirt. "Fat fucking slob!" I shouted, shaking him, though he was so heavy he barely moved.
As naturally as the running tide smooths a sand castle to a simple hummock, then flat nothingness, he faded into smoke. Crater's eyes widened in surprise even as they became translucent, then fled along with his face in wisps of blue on the wet wind. The jacket collapsed in my hand with the nose-watering odor of burning sage, and there was nothing more.
"Nice move," said the wind. "Good work," whispered the sudden rain. The jacket just stared at me, the empty arms shrugging away a man's passing, as if I were below reproach.
"I didn't mean it," I whispered, cradling the grubby nylon of his jacket to my cheek. "I didn't mean to call you that. Please, you're my friend."
Alone, I stood on the sidewalk and sneezed until I cried, but he never came back to me.
© 2008, Joseph E. Lake Jr.
This story was used by Weird Tales to promote their 85th Anniversary party at Norwescon 31 in March of 2008, and as such had its first appearance in a Con flyer.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.